Ras el Hanout


I’ve commented before on how keen I am on making my own spice mixes. Our most recent batch of garam masala was bought from a spice store, in a huge quantity, and turned out to be far too rich in cinnamon for my liking. Is cinnamon even supposed to be in garam masala?

Ras el hanout is a Moroccan spice blend that you may struggle to purchase, leaving you with no option but to make it yourself. It’s ultimately a personal blend and in Morocco no two shops are likely to sell the same product under its banner.

I have based this recipe on that found in Made in Morocco but did a little tweaking because I was in a bit of a rush.

In my spice grinder, I put the following:

1 tsp fennel seeds
1 (generous) tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
a good shake of turmeric
1 tsp cinnamon
2 scant tsp ground ginger
a good shake of smoky paprika
scant ½ tsp ground chillis
a good grating of nutmeg
2 cloves
½ tsp allspice
seeds from 2 cardamom pods
salt and pepper

Give it all a good whizzy up, so that it’s a uniform mix, and store in a jar. This will make about ¼ cup: with spice mixes it’s always best to make them in small quantities unless it’s something you use tons of. Also, if you’re working on finding your perfect blend, make sure you write down what you did so you can make adjustments next time.

I was pretty happy with this – I could have faffed around toasting spices (and the original recipe does mandate that) and I probably will do that in future, if I’m less pushed for time, but other than that, there aren’t any adjustments I’d look to make.

Once you have this, you’ll find plenty of uses for it … but the most simple perhaps is to mix a couple of generous teaspoons through some plain flour and use that to coat garfish fillets before quickly pan frying them. Not only does it add a subtle flavour but the turmeric adds a gorgeous golden glow to the fish.

Couscous Salad Recipe


Disclaimer: I was sent the wholemeal couscous by San Remo.

As you may have gathered, I am quite keen on couscous but one thing I normally steer well clear of is wholemeal pasta. I had a very unhappy experience with it as a child (it was so horrible we ended up feeding it, uncooked, to my pet mouse, who loved it) so I was both sceptical and interested when San Remo released the new wholemeal couscous. Out for a drink, I mentioned it to a friend who got quite excited about the idea and immediately said she’d look out for it. So I’m assuming that more than reader will be interested to know a higher fibre, lower GI version of couscous exists and is produced by a South Australian company!

Anyway, new couscous meant time to try out a new recipe. Given that the Moroccans should know a thing or two about couscous, I turned to Made in Morocco and when I spotted the recipe for a couscous salad made with chickpeas and goat’s cheese I was sold.

This recipe isn’t flawless – so read on for what I did and what I will do next time!

Begin by roasting and skinning some red capsicums. Heat your oven to 200°C (conventional), cut your capsicums in half and place them skin side up on a tray (for ease of cleaning, I recommend a tray lined with baking paper). Drizzle over some olive oil and roast for ~ 30 minutes or until the skin starts to char and blister. Remove from the oven, place in a bowl and cover with cling film so that they sweat. Once they’ve cooled, you’ll be able to peel them quite easily! Slice and set aside.

In a large pan (I used a Corningware pan, so it could go straight from stove to table), heat some olive oil and lightly cook one largeish onion, finely chopped. Add two cloves of crushed garlic, 1 tsp of turmeric and ½ tsp of ground cinnamon. Quickly cook off the spices before adding 1½ cups of stock (chicken or vegetable).

Bring the stock to the boil and add 1½ cups of couscous (I used 50:50 white and wholemeal). Stir through the couscous and remove from the heat. Cover and leave for ~ 10 minutes, then fluff up the couscous and leave to cool a little.

When you’re ready to serve, stir through the remaining ingredients: 1 tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed, 150g of goat’s cheese, crumbled (I used Udder Delights’ chèvre which is widely available in supermarkets, but not particularly cheap), the juice of one lemon (I also added some grated rind) and plenty of fresh mint and parsley. While you can live without the parsley (we did) don’t skimp on the mint.

If you have it, top the salad with some finely sliced rind of preserved lemon.

This recipe is good in principle but there are a few problems. Firstly, the recipe says it serves four. Really? 1½ cups of couscous more like serves about 10. I brought this salad to our Christmas lunch of 8 adults and one child and only about a quarter of it was eaten! Secondly, I feel that the proportions are slightly out of whack. There are too many chickpeas, possibly not enough goat’s cheese and definitely not enough capsicum.

I’d definitely make a variation on this again. I’d do the onion, garlic, turmeric and cinnamon, I’d omit the chickpeas altogether and would increase the amount of roasted capsicum (or add other roasted vegetables, as I think some roast pumpkin would work really well here). Unless I was making this to take to a massive BBQ I’d also halve the quantities.

Recipe issues aside, the wholemeal couscous worked a treat. Andy didn’t even notice the difference and the next couscous salad I make (which will be on Monday, different recipe next time!) I’m going to use 100% wholemeal, not half and half.

Le Riad

date of visit:  Thurs 19 May 2011

At the suggestion (or should that be request?) of a friend a small group of us headed to Le Riad, the only city centre Moroccan restaurant in Adelaide. It’s a tiny, unobtrusive restaurant that sits on Pulteney Street, next to the Earl of Aberdeen and Pondok Bali.

I like Moroccan food (just as I liked Morocco – any country where bakers cycle around with their fresh bread which you can buy and then they invite you to come and see their bakery rates highly for me) but don’t have a lot of experience eating it in restaurants, so I was interested to see how things panned out.

Our reservation was for very early (6pm) on a Thursday night – totally unnecessary as we were alone in the restaurant for the entire meal, although a very large party did arrive just as we were leaving. The restaurant is decorated with carpets and wall hangings which not only add ambience but I suspect are absolutely essential for sound absorption in such a small venue. The Moroccan music playing was mostly unobtrusive, so Le Riad definitely gets a thumbs up for noise management! It is quite a dim restaurant which can be irritating if you like (or want) to see your food in detail.

The service was probably the big let down. I know I’m difficult to please when it comes to service but our waitress just wasn’t switched on enough. For example, we ordered the selection of dips to start and the dips were placed on the table without any explanation of what was what. OK – we could figure out the hummous and the goat’s cheese dip but did rather struggle with the others. And when we ordered more bread (from someone other than our waitress) she came out into the restaurant with it and seemed surprised and confused about where the bread should go. Of course, not providing quite enough bread with a selection of dips is a criticism in itself. It never pays to be less than generous with things like bread – especially not when bread is such a staple in Moroccan cuisine.

These grumbles aside, the dips were tasty and things augured well for our main courses. Around the table we had a tagines, couscous and different types of kebab so we did a reasonable job of covering the menu. The portion sizes are quite generous although, with the kebabs in particular, there is plenty of padding with salad. I ordered the kefta kebab which came as three patties on a plate with rice and salad. It all tasted good (not exceptional) but the dish was really salad, with the kefta and rice.

After finishing with mint tea, the bottom line came to $35 per person (including a tip). This did include a few alcoholic drinks. I suspect that this is where my problem lies: it’s just a tad too expensive for what it is. The selection of dips alone was $24 – that’s just too much for something that’s so cheap and easy to produce. The various kebabs all hover around the $20 mark and the rest of the dishes are somewhere between $20 and $25. This means that if you’re a keen cook who can be bothered to produce this type of food at home you’ll be left feeling a little short changed. Personally – that’s exactly how I feel which means I doubt I’ll be rushing back.

Of course, if you’re looking for a casual meal out which is a change of pace, then Le Riad is definitely an option worth considering.

Le Riad
314B Pulteney Street
Adelaide SA 5000
phone: 08 8223 6111

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